BEST’s Reaction To The 2014 Throne Speech

November 9, 2014

The Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] has responded to the 2014 Throne Speech saying that while they are disappointed that there was no mention of Southlands becoming a public parkland or of pesticide-related issues, there “was much we can comment positively on.”

The full statement from BEST is below:

Of course we are disappointed that there was no mention in this year’s Throne Speech of Southlands becoming a public parkland, nor of pesticide-related issues. Also, we would have preferred seeing more on strategies dealing with the vital issues of food security in general and agriculture in particular. However, there was much we can comment positively on:

A new Energy Act shifting control to the Regulatory Authority:
It is good that more attention is being given to energy issues. However, much still needs to be done to define for the public the parameters of this Regulatory Authority. Certainly we don’t understand, and we don’t think the public understands much either, exactly what role the regulatory authority is going to play.

Is there going to be a singular authority encompassing telecommunications energy, and other sectors? If that’s the case there certainly needs to be a high-level environmental input as was contemplated by the sustainable development initiative of almost 10 years ago. Or if there are going to several regulatory authorities, their boundaries and responsibilities need to be communicated and made public, before substantive power is devolved to them.

An invitation for proposals to install a large-scale solar plant on the airport finger:
We need to know more before fully endorsing a large-scale solar facility at the airport. The idea at its root is a good one. The concept of acquiring more of our energy from solar rather than fossil fuels is one we would support in principle. As with many things, it is the details where most scrutiny will be required.

An Energy Summit next week to discuss various issues of local energy policy:
BEST has been invited to attend and make contributions to this Energy Summit. We don’t know much yet about the format or how contributions to the summit will be used. Nor is there much time to prepare a formal submission.

New powers for the Director of Planning to investigate and penalise breaches of planning control:
On the face of it this seems to be a very good step. We are aware that some prospective developers have adopted the practice of asking for forgiveness after having completed their developments rather than asking for permission to develop in the first place. In one case, for example, a developer has submitted at least half a dozen retroactive applications.

Since retroactive applications are permitted under the Planning Act, there has in the past seemed little that the Department could do to discourage this kind of behaviour. If these new powers will empower the Director of Planning to deal more forcefully with habitual offenders, we will support it wholeheartedly.

Amendments to the Water Resources Act exerting greater control over containment/disposal of black water in inshore waters from boats and marinas:
These proposed amendments to the Water Resources Act as expressed in the Throne Speech would be a gain for Bermuda’s Marine environment, and a move we would support.

A commitment to explore aquaculture and hydroponic vegetable production:
We would support this provided the commitment includes a thorough examination of the environmental liabilities associated with aquaculture, particularly the potential for unintended genetic traits to escape from farmed fish into the wild.

Next step of consultation on the EEZ to be an independent economic feasibility study:
We understand that the government doesn’t want to rush into a decision, but we caution against further study if it serves mostly to delay decision-making.

A study of waste water servicing and infrastructure in St George’s:
Wastewater servicing and infrastructure in St. George’s and Hamilton need study and attention. Specifically, our production of solid and liquid wastes is straining our ability to cope with them. More and more of our activities ranging from traffic congestion to being overwhelmed with the volume of tourists exiting mega cruise ships to coping with our volumes of waste all indicate a need for the words “carrying capacity” to be integrated into government thinking and policies.

Upgrades to the shipping channels to accommodate the next generation of cruise ships:
We should be asking the same questions about carrying capacity when looking to accommodate cruise ships in St. George. Next generations of cruise ships only get larger and larger. At what point will the discharge of passengers overwhelm our facilities and become a negative experience for local facilities and personnel as well as for the tourists themselves? We charge the Bermuda tourism Authority to diligently examine these issues. The long-term success of tourism will require more than rubberstamping the practices of the recent past.

Again and again we must ask what is the carrying capacity of our island. At dockyard and in the Western parishes, we have experienced overload for transportation, beach going and entertainment when thousands of cruise ship passengers descend onto Dockyard at one time. In the interest of our own image, sanity and credibility we should be asking how many cruise ship passengers landing at one time on one dock can we provide with a pleasantly memorable tourism experience?

Interest in developing Ships Wharf into a “vibrant commercial site”:
In general, we have little objection to the recycling of already developed “brownfield” sites.

A bridge over Store Hill to link up segments of the railway trail:
Our support is 100% behind efforts to make the railway right-of-way fully accessible, including the bridge across Bailey’s Bay, the footbridge over Store Hill and at other gaps In the continuity. As our roads become more and more congested with speeding motorised traffic it will be even more important to reserve some pathways for pedestrians and pedal cyclists.

PATI to become operative as of April 2015:
Access to information is now deemed almost a universal human right. We welcome news that PATI is to become operative next year.

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  1. Jim Bean says:

    Who actually cares about BEST? They would rather see us all living in caves with no development.

    • JD says:

      Thats just not true.

    • Allspice says:

      The ignorance demonstrated by your remark is profound.
      What they have to say is normally rational. In particular think about what is said regarding carrying capacity. I for one am glad that there is somebody on the island who is prepared to stand up to prevent our natural assets and our environment from being destroyed by short-sighted politicians looking for unsustainable political and financial gains.
      BEST also attempts to bring information into the development process that might otherwise be left out in order to avoid dramatic and foolish developments instead of having to protest against them.
      So at the very least try to use your head when you are criticizing people whose contributions you obviously know nothing about.

  2. Jo Blo says:

    I definitely appreciate the spirit of these guys work but it seems to have the effect of being counter productive at times…